The evolving role of computational aerothermodynamics (CA) within NASA over the past 20 years is reviewed. The presentation highlights contributions to understanding the Space Shuttle pitching moment anomaly observed in the first shuttle flight, prediction of a static instability for Mars Pathfinder, and the use of CA for damage assessment in post-Columbia mission support. In the view forward, several current challenges in computational fluid dynamics and aerothermodynamics for hypersonic vehicle applications are discussed. Example simulations are presented to illustrate capabilities and limitations. Opportunities to advance the state-of-art in algorithms, grid generation and adaptation, and code validation are identified.